Financial risk aversion and personal life history

Though risk attitude is central to economics and finance, relatively little is known about how it is formed and how it changes over time. Based on US data from a dedicated psycho-social module on lifestyle of the 2010 Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we provide new evidenceon the correlation between financial risk attitude and life-history negative events out of an individual’s control. Using observed portfolio decisions to proxy for risk aversion, we find correlation with two of such events: having been in a natural disaster and (especially) the loss of a child. These effects survive after controlling for classic socio-demographic determinants of risk aversion.

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